An inside look at Mark Dantonio and his staffs recruiting and philosophy!

Hondo S. Carpenter

The Duffy isn’t the same place it used to be. In the past few weeks, a sense of optimism has been instilled into the MSU football program. Once again, you get the feeling that MSU is doing things the right way and making serious progress.Â

In the past few days I have spoken to several recruits who are considering or already committed to MSU. In particular, two of them, who have asked to remain anonymous, shared their thoughts on MSU football.

Recruit #1 plays defense and is very impressed with MSU and the coaching staff. When I was talking to him, I found it interesting that he was stressing the great tradition of our university so much. He stated, “I knew that Bubba Smith was a great actor and I heard that he played ball, but when I heard (about) all that he had done at MSU, I was shocked. It was really big to see all the national championships that MSU had won. I just really didn’t know.” I asked him who in particular was stressing the great tradition of MSU and he replied by telling me that everyone did. About the coaching staff he told me that they “…were real honest and I like that. They told me that the recent history is not what MSU is about. They told me that MSU is a school that wants championships. I really feel comfortable there and MSU knows how to win championships. I wouldn’t have even considered Cincinnati, but MSU, you can win the big one there.”

While I certainly came away impressed with what the first recruit was stressing about the coaching staff, the second recruit amazed me even more. We began a discussion on the difficult schedule that MSU plays; it truly is a selling point to recruits as they are intrigued by the chance to beat the best teams. He told me that, “What really stuck out to me was the schedule that MSU has. The coach talked about how at MSU, with that schedule, if you run the table, you could never be out of the race.” I also asked him about the possibility of making it easier by eliminating Notre Dame as some fans have recently alluded to; he did not want any part of that. He stressed that this new coaching staff was not thinking about just winning six games to get to a bowl; this coaching staff is focused on winning a lot more. This recruit echoed this sentiment; he said to me, “I can say this, those coaches aren’t thinking about Motor City Bowls; they are thinking about BCS Championship bowls.” The discussion of the Motor City bowl elicited my interest and I questioned him about it. He opened up about what other schools were saying about MSU and told me “…other schools are telling me that Dantonio is a good man but (that) all MSU is, is a Motor City Bowl team.” Apparently, that is not what the coaches were preaching to him. “I am saying that I heard a lot of talk about championships, but they weren’t talking about the Detroit Bowl (Motor City Bowl).”Â

What is this change of culture? All of a sudden the Rose Bowl does not seam like it is a dream; the Rose Bowl is a goal that this coaching staff is aiming for. Every recruit has stressed upon their return that this staff is organized. I was told, “Those people don’t waste their time. They said, why do something in four hours that you can do in two.” It is evident that this coaching staff is all business. However, in providing a business like mentality, the staff is also getting to know every kid as an individual, not just a football player.

When recruiting, Coach Dantonio has made it very clear that this program will not tolerate off-field issues. According to one recruit, Dantonio stated, “We are not here to play. We will do our part in providing a great education, facilities and coaching; and you are going to provide commitment, dedication and focus. Neither of us can or should tolerate anything less than championships and (college) degrees when this is done.Â

Aside from Dantonio, it is clear that the rest of his staff is forming great relationships with parents. One parent told me that, “Narduzzi is tough. That guy is like the Energizer Bunny. Forget my son, I was ready to play.” The parent added that Narduzzi stressed that they will not be a let down team. In particular he added that MSU “…will be the toughest team on anyone’s schedule,” and that MSU will play “…black and blue football.” The love for this new staff from parents is sound.

In the past, accountability on the field has plagued MSU. The new staff is not going to allow that to happen. Under Dantonio, accountability is being stressed as a pillar to success. Without it, MSU will not succeed. On and off the field, not only must the staff hold the players accountable for every move, but also it must be the players themselves stepping up and being leaders. MSU will become a team that is responsible for each other, not just themselves.

It appears that these messages have been constant. Every recruit I have spoken to has relayed variations of the same speech. The staff is being honest and letting each kid know that they are a going to be part of a team that will bring MSU back to success. One recruit told me that the coaches were clear in their message. They said to him that MSU is “…not looking for hotshots. We are looking for tough winners.” With Dantonio in the captain’s seat, MSU is going to bring in tough players who are committed to winning at MSU.

These new commits are the ones that Dantonio is bringing in to win championships. In his eyes, they will truly be remembered for bringing MSU back to playing championship football. This is the attitude that has been vacant at MSU for quite some time. Of course, if this staff doesn’t win games on the field, none of this will matter. However, at this time, they have certainly been impressive. And more importantly than being impressive to the fans, they impress the recruits. To me, it sounds like the foundation for championship football is officially being laid.